January 08, 2013
What Squad Leaders Know

It is rare in American public life that a former enlisted man gets anywhere near true power. Al Gore was one of the few exceptions, until the Supreme Court headed him off in 2000.

Too bad, because the thing about having served as an enlisted man is that for the rest of your life your first thought on seeing a general will not be along the lines of Gee whiz, what a fine figure of a man. No doubt he is brave, clean, reverent, thrifty and obedient on top of being, obviously, a military genius as well.

Not quite.

If you’re like this former private your first thought will be, That asshole used to be a lieutenant, and I know lieutenants.

Former private Chuck Hagel was a decorated and twice-wounded squad leader in Vietnam. But the wounds and the decorations aren’t why I hope he gets to be Secretary of Defense in spite of Bibi Netanyahu and the outraged flutters from our domestic chicken hawks.

It’s because of something another squad leader said to me when I was a reporter. We were at a First Air Cavalry fire base in Tay Ninh province, and I had mentioned to this sergeant that I was thinking of leaving his outfit to hook up with Bravo Company.

“What are you, crazy?” the sergeant said. “Don’t you know their old man won the Medal of Honor?”

I didn’t, but what did that have to do with it?

“Why do you think they give a company commander the Medal of Honor?” the squad leader said. “For killing grunts like us.”


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at January 08, 2013 01:15 PM
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Speaking of lieutenants, it's Richard Nixon's 100th birthday: http://www.zocalopublicsquare.org/2013/01/09/how-richard-nixon-happened/

Posted by: Martha Bridegam on January 9, 2013 10:13 PM

That IS the problem with officers, isn't it; they almost all begin as lieutenants.

Maybe we should take a page from the Brits and make the ones who aren't princes of the blood or such come up THROUGH the ranks?

Oh, wait, now some little pencil dick is going to want to deport me ---I wish him luck with that, since I've had family on this piece of planet since before the Revolution he is so fond of invoking.

Posted by: Syrbal/Labrys on January 10, 2013 12:50 PM

Brits used to be able to buy a command. It's progress that colonels and admirals no longer start off their military service with those titles, but I wonder when it changed. I'm fairly sure the new wave was after our revolution, and it must have swept through before World War I, I hope.

Posted by: JoyfulA on January 11, 2013 3:25 PM

I do counseling for active duty and wow, does it make a person question the leadership. Hagel as enlisted, to me, is his biggest asset.

Posted by: Vickie Feminist on January 12, 2013 6:22 PM
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